Justin Chadwick, a fifth grader at Wasatch Elementary in Provo, sat on the edge of his seat all morning. He couldn’t keep his knees from bouncing in excitement and his eyes were fixed on the door waiting for the moment to arrive. That moment was when Kemba Walker, Nolan Smith, Jackson Emery, Kawhi Leonard and the rest of Jimmer Fredette’s All-Star crew walked into his school to hang out with his class.
Jimmer’s All-Star players visited the school Thursday morning before warming up for the big game in the Marriott Center last night. The players came to see the kids and pass out free tickets to the game. Although they brought 500 tickets to pass out, the students received much more than good seats. Cheers of excitement and uncontrolled smiles leaped from students as they swarmed the players.
“They wanted to be here with the kids before the game,” said Kate Foley, director of client management, who represents Fredette through the Octagon Agency. “When we were deciding what to do with the players before the game, they asked what they could do to give back to the community. These are the players’ tickets that they wanted to give out to the kids right now.”
The students swarmed the towering team members asking them for autographs and hugs, with Chadwick leading the pack. The fifth grader came away with an autograph on his arm, and two tickets to the game.
“One is for me, and the other is for my dad,” Chadwick said. “My dad’s taken me to games before, but this time I get to take him to an NBA game. I’m really glad they took the time to see us, I mean they’re NBA players and all. I nearly exploded with excitement.”
The players stayed and chatted with the kids much longer than expected. While Malcolm Lee tried to trade some tickets to a student for his chocolate milk in the lunch room, Tobias Harris shot a few hoops with the kids in the gym. The players even asked if they could play in a kickball match on the black-top.
“It’s not every day they get to see NBA players; it’s really fun to be here,” said Walker, who led UConn to an NCAA title in April.
Walker is one of the 12 players to visit the school. Fredette was not in attendance.
“This really is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” said Emery, the only native Utahn. “It’s going to be a great game tonight. It’s a good opportunity for the kids being so close and all to the Marriott Center.”
For Justin Chadwick, it was a moment to treasure. Long after the players had left the school, he was boasting to his friends how he had “hung-out with the players” and he assured them he will never wash Jackson Emery’s autograph off his arm.